Dead... and Back is a survival horror Role Playing Game. The Anarchy Zones is its official setting - aliens, reanimates, and the ruins of 2055 America.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Zone Scavenger Hunt

If its useful, its gone. First rule of scavenging my boy, if its useful, it is gone. Oil based fuels go stale, biofuels break down - their degradable nature is half of why we started using them after all - doesn't poison the environment. As much. Drugs in a form that can be administered - gone. Food? Even military MREs need to kept in a cool place to last more than two years. Rubber gloves are hard to find too.

So, what is the point of searching? Because anything else tends to be worth it. Nano-vac isn't organic, so it doesn't rot. Neither do the CAD files for manufacturing, and the whole point of bio-plastic is that you can make it with the right plant materials, rather than drill under the gulf of Mexico.

You don't want the stuff, you want the things that make the stuff. That is where the real prosperity is. A bad scav looks for guns, a good one looks for three inch flange valves. Guns are a rare find, and of negotiable use. Anyone who is trying to irrigate crops, produce fuel, run a chemical factory, purify water - they're going to need valves and pipe.

Copper wire is great - send signals, tie up plant creepers, bale hay, use in certain chemical processing.

The best of us don't need to go looking for stuff. We know alternate uses for things on hand and just sell it. You would be surprised how many people dismiss broken glass as just refuse, rather than impromptu wall spikes or a precursor to optical cables, or even just potential jars for preserves. No one is reinventing the wheel here, so raw materials are still a thing of value.

So I'll tell you what - you are going to go into that block over there. I'll give you three days to find enough stuff to pay for a five day stay in a town. You do so, you stay on with the group. Anything beyond six days, you get the excess. Fail, and we leave you here with the reanimates.

Good Luck.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

So What Do You Want in the Next Edition?

It is getting about time to release a new edition of "Dead... and Back". I've always had a list of things to change, but with spring in the air, something needs to be done.

Most of what is changing this time is clarifications to rules and a bit of rearranging. Character creation has been expanded slightly, adding a discussion phase, as well as formalizing the ability to get a few starting altruism points if you create NPCs for the GM. Yet more optional rules will be included - as well as some insight on how to use them. Some examples are getting redone. The old character sheets apparently need revision - I apologize to anyone who used the second of the two provided sheets, which was missing a few data entry spaces. Some setting information about Oborous, Unit 2552, and the Anarchy Zones is present as well, though the AZ seems to demand its own book (possibly more than one, actually) at this point.

Perhaps the biggest change I'm considering is an alteration to combat. I want to come up with some basic hand to hand options to make unarmed combat a bit more useful. So far the options are Pin, Grapple, Throw, and Subdue non-lethally. Another possibility is altering how combat range and difficulty is determined. Rather than altering the number of dice rolled, or requiring extra successes, range and complication just increases the effective Sufficient Damage Index of the target - its harder to get bullets on target and hit vital points.

Another possible big change might come in the attribute derivation section. Right now, secondary abilities tend to be very similar due to the stats being averaged. So I'm thinking of having players sassing a few extra values (-2,-1, 0, 0, +1, +2) at this stage to change things up. A random table might be nice for starting occupation or derived attribute mods.

Currently, there are seventeen listed general skills, but I'd like to bring this up to twenty-five to give a little more variation in the possible character types.

So as usual, I'll ask the community - what else would you like to see in the rules, and are there any other stories you want to see, or technologies you wish to learn more about.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

NPCs for Everyone! (draft)

Why should the game master be the only one to create non-player characters? We've all heard of, or experienced, the cliche of the game master making boring set pieces, or controlling the game too much, or simply getting confused talking to them self.

Let the players make some extra characters, preferably ones they have some interest in. It makes the world a bit more vibrant when other minds contribute. The GM has some less work to do in pre-game preparation, and the player's have a new focus at the beginning of the session. Players are going to recall names they assigned themselves better than the GM's personal dossier file.  Furthermore, this allows everyone to have a hand in filling out the world, becoming connected to it, and discussion of what type of people are needed to move the game along. Wouldn't it be nice if characters are motivated by actual friendship or loyalty, rather than just some stranger in a bar demanding they kill creatures for gold?

Even more interestingly, these characters might be related to or other important in the lives of the players. This gives new story hooks, or a potential replacement for a dead character. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teenage Hunters, Part Two

Kendra pushed the dark SPHERE goggles up onto her forehead, not that there was much to see.. A pair of battery powered lanterns kept Jeff, Heckoya, and Jane well illuminated, but most of the large former restaurant was lost in the darkness. Even in the pool of light, all that really held her attention was the tiny gyro-jet pistol she was idly spinning in her hands. Plastic, ceramic, and light metals, it was toy-like compared to a human weapon with a steel barrel and ferrous acceleration coils. But as interesting as the alien artifact was, her patience was growing thin.

"What the hell is taking so damn long?" she asked "where are the others?"
  Jeff spoke up first "We invited Kirk a few months ago, but he didn't show much commitment to the project."
  "My main man Rick working tonight, helping out with the water pumps." Heckoya added
  "Is there anyone who isn't 'your main man'?" Jeff shot back
  "That is because she is a girl! Have you even tried one?"
   "Boys! Can we get back on topic!" Jane was usually pretty quite, but when she wasn't, everyone listened.
Jeff nodded - "Yes. We came here because Jane wished to voice a concern."

"As Jeff said, not long ago, he wants to keep the trip short - two days out to the next town and back. Now I've been thinking - we should do just the opposite. The 'rents are gonna be livid with us over leaving. Two days or two weeks - we're still going to be facing a few years house arrest - or at least I am. But, we might be able to limit the damage if we bring back something good - actually help the community in exchange for all the worry we caused. Of course, anything all that close has already been picked pretty clean, so we probably need to go farther."
   At first, no one said anything, but when Heckyoa spoke, it was incredulous for the lot "Really? Things have been going fine, and now you bring this up? Not when we're starting, not when we're agreeing to the plans, not at any other time we offered you to opt out - its after we figure out if we have weapons and other illegal stuff - its too late to back out now girl!"
   "Staying longer is the opposite of backing out, you know."
   "You know what I mean - changing the plan. If you we're scared of your folks..."
   "I'm not! I - well, Look. My sister's test results came back, and they're not good. If I can find some nano-vac or at least something to make her happy - it will be worthwhile. But we're not going to find in Tohmpson - that's for sure."

Kendra crossed the lighted patch and gave her friend a hug. "That is different Jane. But it also a big problem for us. We've been trying to keep things covert. It would be possible to collect all the supplies our bikes could carry if we got some friends to help and didn't mind making a run for it rather than just slipping out."
   "My brother dated Jane's sister "Heckoya began "and anyone he calls a skanky b-- and hates is fine by me - I'll do it if everyone else agrees."
   Jeff spoke next "Well, I'm not willing to throw the plan to the winds just to annoy his older brother, though I do at least agree that guy is an a-hole. Kendra, we need a majority vote,  are you for or against?"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kids in the NEST

I'm kind of surprised we're not killing each other. Actually, I was surprised we weren't killing each other before the event, now I'm absolutely astonished.

Moving into this deathtrap wasn't my idea. My husband thought it would be good for the kids. Close proximity to other children, band new schools, money not spent on the car could be invested in stuff for them. Yeah, we and a few thousand other parents all had the same idea. None of the architects did, however.

Frankly, the argument could be made that a tar-paper shack with no indoor plumbing is better than this. At least there they can go outside and have some idea that the world exists, and they'd have all the guns they want.

Stop Laughing! You think this is funny? That I'm just exaggerating. Let me tell you. Most of the apartments are just designed as a place to sleep, maybe eat a bit or watch some TV. But your living room - that is what the hallway outside is for, they think you can do anything you want in the spaces outside. Well what about homework - you want them to do it in an arcade, a business district, the mall? What if someone gets sick - one kid gets sick and in a tiny little box, they all get sick.

Friendly atmosphere they say, quick police response times they say. No traffic to hold up emergency calls. Bull-- If someone's beating up my kid, I want a response now, not an officer running to the scene five minutes later. I don't care what they say about community and good intentions - when there are that many thousand people around, some of them are going to be deviated perverts and I want a gun to deal with them. But are there firearms allowed in here? No! F-ing national guard has machine-guns and anti-aircraft missiles on floor eighty-five, but I can't have my .38?

You've got hundreds of kids per floor, walking distance or a few stairwells from anything. Both parents are probably working to afford the rent on the tiny little boxes we are stuck in. Not like that isn't a mix leading to a delinquency problem or gangs.

Of course right now, we don't have money - we've got energy credits. Whose idea was that? It was hard enough to keep kids in 500 square feet when they could sit down and play videogames. What are they up to now?

What are they up to now? Janacie! Jake! Where did you go? MotherF-- excuse me. I've got some children to find.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Where to Start

If I'm doing this right, the Anarchy Zones is a pretty big world with a lot of options, quite possibly too big with difficulty finding where to begin.

Think small. Think Dread.

Thinking Small
Yes, there are some pretty big things about to happen in the zone. A least one city-state is planning for war, another desperate to find resources, and a third rife with internal conflict about its cybernetic dreams. No one knows if or when another alien ship will show up. But all these are symptoms, cogs of the grand plan, and not the machine itself.

Being elite members of a city-state militia sent on a mission to another place is certainly one way to bring a group together and give them a goal. Its unlikely for a starting character though.

Just getting food, or some money for the family, or finding supplies for this year's harvest are all good points. It is a personal stake, rather than being a go-fer in the plans of someone else, and a lot closer to heart. Now the struggle is do they sell out to some other cause to achieve this. Joining the militia gets some money, but sends the character into danger. Sneaking into cordoned off areas of the arcology can get supplies, but is highly illegal.

In short, don't try to change the zone - at least not at first. Instead, ask how the zone will change the characters, and keep a focus on that.

The Anarchy Zones isn't the usual - "something is going to try to eat my face in the next few moments" horror. Any sieges of a mall between a few thousand reanimates and a handful of survivors ended years ago, and poorly for the survivors. But there is still a chance of such event happening again if you aren't fast enough, or smart enough. A shortage of bullets is a lot less important than a shortage of food.

Although not alive, the Zone is rather akin to the otherworldly horrors of HP Lovecraft. Conflict is often less will a person live to the next day, than why. People in the city states will back-stab you for more resources, the government doesn't seem to be acting, raiders are roaming, you can never tell what the alien's motives are - what is a person to do?

Planetary Citizens are smart and well equipped opponents, if not always looking for a fight. Actual humans are probably the most ruthless, and most aware of what is to gain. Reanimates are smarter than a simple Romero style zombie. Characters are just a small part of the world, yet they may have to face all three of these things to fulfill even simple desires.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Topics List: The Revenge

If someone raises a question about the setting, I can answer it fairly easily, or at least will be able to think of something with a few minutes thought. However, getting on to topic can be a bit difficult - I might have a lot of prompts, but without direct interrogation, the incentive to actively develop them isn't as great.
  1. 104.3 Broadcast Schedule
  2. Vehicles (Citizen and Non)
  3. Internal conflicts
  4. Bounty Hunting
  5. Cybernetic and Transgenic Augmentation
  6. Alternate Fuels
  7. Other Nations
  8. More NPCs
  9. Scenarios
  10. Power Armor (History and Stats)
  11. Scaling Rules
  12. Notable Equipment
  13. Citizen Tactics
  14. Feral Animals
  15. Revised Reanimate Stats
  16. Stockpiles and Salvage
  17. Citizen Factions
  18. Karma
  19. Weather
  20. Mars and Lunar Base Remains
  21. More about Arcologies and EDGE settlements
  22. Urban Encounters
  23. SPHERE Presence and Withdrawal
  24. EVENT Details
  25. Prior History
  26. Lost SEC
  27. Mexico and Canada Details
  28. Settlement Management
  29. Long Term Player Goals
  30. Citizen Psychology
  31. Leadership
  32. US Government Status
  33. Setting VIPs
  34. KCA Assets and other European Forces
  35. Backgrounds
  36. Honest Day's Work and Economics
  37. Creature Abilities
  38. Restarting a Nation
  39. Fuel Cells and Batteries
  40. Slang and Customs of the Zone
  41. Ideals
  42. Drones and Robots
  43. SPHERE and NANO for Players
  44. Peak Oil
  45. Designing Groups and Places
  46. Expand the Alternate Settings
  47. GM Advice and Notes
  48. Pre-Event Lives for Characters
  49. More about each City-state
  50. 25mm and 45mm weapon systems
  51. New Close Combat Options
Other projects include some general editing and probably compiling some of the entries that are already present for easier browsing and off-line reading.

Feel free to suggest topics or ask for clarification of ones already broached.